Our point of view: sabers are slamming in Eastern Europe | Editorials

It’s easy to have missed this, with the pandemic, inflation and infrastructure and a string of verdicts in racist-stained trials, but a potential war between NATO and Russia is developing.

It’s a big problem.

Ukraine was once part of the now dissolved Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin never tried to hide his desire to rebuild the Soviet empire, and Ukraine is the key to that ambition. It has already annexed the Crimean Peninsula (a statute that the United States does not recognize) and it has funded and supported a “separatist” movement that deprived part of eastern Ukraine of control from the Kiev government. .

In October, Putin began to assemble troops at the border, and US intelligence believes this is a different move from previous ones; on the one hand, much of the activity took place at night in an apparent attempt to cover it up.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Latvia on Tuesday, the Alliance secretary general said NATO must prepare for a possible invasion. Last week, the Ukrainian president publicly warned that Moscow was planning a coup.

This could all turn out to be another in Putin’s series of mind games with the West. But there is no doubt that he covets Ukraine – preferably annexed to Russia, but at the very least as a Belarus-like puppet state.

Russia has for centuries insisted on a buffer zone in Eastern Europe, putting a physical distance between it and Western powers like Germany and France. It annoys Putin that Poland, Hungary and the Baltic countries are now members of NATO; he said this week that NATO troops and armaments in Ukraine would be a “red line” that Moscow cannot tolerate. According to him, Europe is getting closer and closer to the Russian motherland.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although it wants to, so NATO (and by extension the United States) is not obligated to defend itself. But NATO has repeatedly said it is determined to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty, and an independent, west-facing Ukraine is anathema to Putin.

Would NATO intervene militarily if Putin invaded Ukraine? We doubt it. But the United States and its allies must make Moscow understand that such a move would come at a very high price – and this message must be supported enough to be credible.

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